A 10″ digital photo frame for $100.00 refurbished? This seemed like a steal from a local reseller. Actually is was a bargain-bin store, but so what? This could easily be 50 dollars more somewhere else. Too good to be true?

It definitely has some problems, but it has some surprises as well. My version of this frame has a nice antique-wood style that matches the rest of my home well (nice change from what’s flooding the market now). The 4:3 format LCD picture (not the wasteful widescreen format) is bright, hi-res, and clear. My 2GB model has lots of storage space. It even handles almost all types of flash media and has a high-speed USB interface. I think the only 2 I won’t do is XD (Olympus crap) and Micro drives (which nobody uses anyway). It does pictures, music, movies, like a tiny computer. Actually, I think this frame has more processing power than my 1st laptop. It even has a file browser and massive configuration settings. But, like most frames, formats are limited, And with respect to movies, format information is hard to come by. As a matter of fact, it even disliked 2 of my JPG pics (out of 70), though I haven’t figured out why.

The sound, usually tinny and underpowered in photo frames, is incredible with the Illuminx. Low signal-to-noise, excellent range, and decent power are surprising for modern stereo equipment, let alone a cheap picture frame. But this has got it. Again, better than my first laptop. I didn’t try to watch a movie, though.

The problems come from the current firmware and XP driver. My frame had a bug in the browser firmware that didn’t let me transfer files from the flash media to the internal memory. It would show pictures from flash drives, but just no copying possible. Using the direct connection to a PC solved the problem, at first. My 32-bit XP desktop works like a charm with the frame. But my 64-bit laptop could only recognize the drives- it couldn’t explore/move their contents. Though USB recognition is a common problem with 64-bit OS’s, it’s still something to keep in mind if you use XPx64 or Vista exclusively.

On top of that, don’t expect too much support from the manufacturer. The “Hot Concepts” company won’t offer firmware upgrades, and seems to be nothing more than a cheap California hotel room. The actual manufacturer might be the Chinese company “Jie Kee Plastic Electronical Gifts Co, Ltd.” (I love Chinese corporate names), but Hot Concepts won’t confirm this. Jie Kee’s model DP-10 frame looks eerily familiar. Unfortunately, you can find references to updates on their site, but there’s nothing actually there but broken links. No drivers, no firmware. Like most Chinese websites, it’s all window dressing, but they always forget the window.

If you take this frame for what it is right out of the box, it’s quite a good find. Especially, if you consider some of the low-res, ugly, jittery, and frankly ‘cheap’ offerings of “reputable” manufacturers on the market now, the Illuminx frame is a real upgrade. But, don’t expect it to go much farther than that. If it doesn’t work for you now, it won’t get any better in the future (barring some aftermarket hack). As for long-term reliability, I’ll keep you updated.